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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: August ::
Re: Stratford Festival Hamlet
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.1624  Thursday, 31 August 2000.

[1]     From:   Cornelius Novelli <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 30 Aug 2000 12:53:30 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: Stratford Festival

[2]     From:   Janet MacLellan <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 30 Aug 2000 19:35:11 -0500
        Subj:   Stratford Festival Hamlet


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Cornelius Novelli <
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Date:           Wednesday, 30 Aug 2000 12:53:30 -0400 (EDT)
Subject:        Re: Stratford Festival

I much enjoyed Paul Gross' handling of the role of Hamlet, broad as it
was at times, and the evident engagement of the youngsters in the
audience.  In the performance we saw, when Hamlet says "Am I a coward?"
a little voice from about the fifth row at house right said "Yes."
Without missing a beat, Gross took a few steps that way and peered: "Who
calls me villain?"

I too believe that MEDEA is one of Stratford's best-ever, but for the
record, the actress is Seana McKenna rather than Diane D'Aquila (who is,
I think, really fine in ELIZABETH REX).   --Neil Novelli

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Janet MacLellan <
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Date:           Wednesday, 30 Aug 2000 19:35:11 -0500
Subject:        Stratford Festival Hamlet

I saw Paul Gross's Hamlet in May, during previews, and I found the
production generally competent, with occasional highlights as well as
some questionable interpretive choices. Some people I've spoken to since
have expressed harsher opinions.

Shari Morey suggests that Gross's problem may be lack of stage
experience.  I doubt this, as I've seen Gross do some excellent work
onstage in Toronto over a decade ago, yet it's true that some very odd
choices were made (the over-the-top grief at the outset, the
ever-gesturing hands). Possibly lack of experience with the Festival
space itself was a factor.

On the plus side, the actors all seemed to know what they were saying:
I'm told that the director, Joseph Ziegler, spent a lot of time working
on the text with everyone, which the cast greatly appreciated.

The highlight of the production for me was Marion Day's Ophelia. She has
a wonderfully rich, husky voice, and the production's design concept
(Regency) works very well for her, putting her conflict of loyalties
between Hamlet and her father into a Jane Austen-like context in which
romance must be tempered by practicality (I found myself thinking of
Persuasion). Apart from "O, what a noble mind," which was lacklustre
when I saw it, I enjoyed her whole performance, especially her mad
scene, which was admirably restrained and highly uncanny (I found the
blocking, in which she stalks across the stage, evocative of the earlier
Ghost scenes).

Also enjoyable were Juan Chioran as the Gravedigger and, at the
performance I saw at least, Michael Wacholtz's Voltemand, who reported
the news from Norway with an enthusiasm verging on Coarse Acting ("So,
what's the play about, anyway?" "Well, there's this messenger...").
Alas, I'm told the speech has since been toned down.

I'd like to throw a question out to the list regarding this production's
placement of the interval, which I found hilarious, although I don't
think it was intended to be. In act 3, scene 3, Hamlet walks in on the
praying Claudius, says "now I'll do it," draws his sword, raises it over
Claudius's head, and--lo, and behold!--the lights go down for
intermission. Will he or won't he, folks?--it's a cliffhanger! This
seems to me an absurd place to put the play's interval (surely Hamlet's
not Nancy Drew, needing each chapter of his career to end with italics
and an exclamation point?), and yet I'm told an earlier production at
the same theatre divided the play in the same way, so it's clearly not a
fluke. Have any other listmembers seen Hamlets with this "cliffhanger"
intermission? Is there some logic behind it other than the obvious (e.g.
is it an exceptionally good place for the actor of Hamlet to take a
breather, or something)?

Regards,
Janet MacLellan
 

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